Among the 4 Chinese companies on MIT's 50 Smartest Companies 2014 list, Tencent is very well positioned with their products and services. Its enhanced instant messaging service QQ has been the most popular by far in China for years, nearly used by everyone. In recent years, its new service WeChat which runs on both Android and iOS and includes free voice/video calls/messaging among members are gaining similar status. For sometime already, WeChat has been cutting revenues for mobile service providers. One interesting thing is that an elder man from Denmark whom I met recently in Thailand uses it. He said a lot of people in Europe use WeChat and regard it to be far better than Skype.

Alex Forshaw writes:

I use WeChat partly because I cover Tencent and partly because I need to stay in close contact with Chinese people, but I can confirm that more Westerners are beginning to use the service as well. The English version is very simple and effective. The Chinese version has a lot more features and is becoming the top mobile communications client in the world.

Globally, Wechat competes aggressively with LINE, a South Korean company that has locked up the Japanese market for this service. LINE, Wechat and WhatsApp are now in a worldwide land-grab over these services. WhatsApp seems to be a distant third in this niche.

Tencent is very intelligently turning Wechat/Weixin into a "mobile OS within a mobile OS," and it's beginning to up-end a lot of basic services in China. They are partnering with Dianping (Chinese Yelp + Opentable + GRPN component + others), Didi DaChe (Chinese Uber) and other local services companies to drive a lot of 'local business' traffic. The really big call option in Weixin is to turn it into a mobile payment client (a lot of Chinese make mobile payments thru their cell phone as opposed to with a credit card because of idiosyncrasies in the Chinese payments system.)

Analysts argue that within Tencent's current US$125bn market cap, $40bn or so is due to Weixin/Wechat. 

Peter St. Andre writes: 

Facebook is buying ~500 million locked-in users controlled by WhatsApp, so that they can add those poor souls to the 1+ billion locked in users already controlled by Facebook itself (although presumably there's some overlap in their users).

I'll note that, although both Facebook Chat and WhatsApp use modified versions of the chat technology I've worked on since 1999, I ain't seeing any of those billions of dollars. I am, however, probably having a lot more fun than the folks working at Facebook and WhatsApp.


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